Over twenty-five years ago, a group of Christian faculty members began meeting on campus each week to pray for the Virginia Tech community. This ad hoc group eventually took on the name Christian Faculty Fellowship (CFF). CFF faculty volunteers, often in collaboration with campus ministries and local churches, planned and delivered events and programs ranging from lectures, book studies, and Bible study groups to coordination of a multi-day campus-wide Veritas Forum. The leaders who emerged through these efforts came to a shared realization that God had called many Christian faculty, administrators and professional staff to our campus – we believe, for a purpose.
We understood that being a faithful Christian within the university includes more than engaging in evangelism and discipleship, as important as those endeavors are. We wondered, “How can Christian perspectives on life and reality regain an equitable seat at the table of academic and civil discourse on our campus?” So, in the early 2000’s, many of us began to pray for how we might positively influence the campus culture and environment in a specifically Christian way. And, we understood that an active engagement with student life and learning would be important as well. From these prayers emerged a vision to establish a Christian study center – a place where the Christian and academic communities intersect and one that serves students, faculty, administrators and staff alike. In 2011, seven faculty members registered the Christian Scholars Network, Inc. (CSN), and since that time, we have worked to bring the study center to fruition.
It is common practice for study centers to be named after individuals recognizable to Christians but perhaps not readily known to others in the campus community. Centers have been named after Anselm, Chesterton, Comenius, and other notable figures in Christian history. When the time came to choose a name for the study center at Virginia Tech the founders looked to our own contemporary Christian mentor – Walter Bradley. Walter is a retired professor of materials science and engineering from Texas A&M and Baylor Universities. He published an extensive list of articles which explore the important relationship between science and faith. He has served as a model of Christian scholarship for many years and his personal influence extends to Virginia Tech and beyond. He briefly led the national faculty ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU), and was instrumental in organizing a series of national conferences for Christian professors emphasizing both faith-based scholarship spanning the disciplines and professions, and methods of ministry appropriate to faculty members in public colleges and universities.
Walter and his wife Ann developed many methods for sharing their faith and integrating their faith into their lives and work, by opening their home to faculty colleagues and students. During frequent visits to Blacksburg, Walter and Ann provided invaluable personal mentorship to the founders of CSN, and became an important influence for the development of a Christian faculty community at Virginia Tech. The name “Bradley” in our study center’s name is a sincere expression of our gratitude to them.